This letter isn’t about the play-calling or defensive schemes of our football team. There are plenty of USC Alumni and fans that have stated their strong opinions about those topics.
Rather, this is about the game day environment that unfortunately promotes the team’s lack of focus and intensity brought forth by the USC administration.
While all USC Alumni appreciate the administration for all it has done to raise funds to expand USC, at what point does this administration draw the line so we do not lose our great USC game day tradition? I’m all for staying ahead of the curve versus staying stagnant. However, how many sponsors, billboards and gimmicky activities at the Coliseum are going to be enough? It’s not as if ticket prices have come down with all the sponsorships and advertisements. The Coliseum looks like it belongs in NASCAR.
In an effort to increase attendance and sponsorships, Athletic Director Pat Haden and President Nikias have turned our Coliseum game day experience into a three-ring circus. Take the player-haircut skit during the game. The powers-that-be might have inserted this activity for the “game day experience,” but look at the players on the sidelines when this occurs. They’re all looking at the video board laughing as they watch their fellow teammates select their best haircuts. This is happening during critical times of the game.
Then there are the Player Highlights during the game. I’m not talking about replays. You’ve heard about how players shouldn’t read their own press clippings so they don’t lose focus? Well, our administration has our players looking at the video board admiring what they did just earlier instead of focusing on the next play or pumping each other up for the next play. By the way, these highlights are played during the critical times of the game, not during halftime or when the game is won.
Add now the “sounds of the game.” Like I’ve said before, do we really need to have our players look at the video board of the play-by-play commentary on what happened just moments earlier when the game is still on the line? Can you imagine Notre Dame showing highlights of their players during the fourth quarter of that famous fourth-and-9 game in 2005? Not a chance.
Remember when UCLA had their “towel-waving guy” for years? USC Alumni and fans loved that because it was another UCLA joke of LA. When UCLA head coach Jim Mora arrived, he got rid of that nonsense during his first year. Today, our coaching staff has some of the players waving yellow towels as if they’re part of the cheer squad. The issue is that it looks so manufactured. This isn’t the same as the team or coaches truly getting pumped up to encourage one another.
Finally, there’s a “game within the game.” It’s the video board/music vs. the USC Trojans Marching Band. It seems as though the administration is so focused on raising funds that it has forgotten that alumni and fans prefer to hear our beloved USC band over advertisements, sponsors and random music blaring from the speakers. It’s been a few years already since the large video board was placed at the Coliseum. Yet to this day, the administration still has not found a way to coordinate and sync up with the Spirit of Troy. The music and advertisements continue to play over the band. The USC administration has already moved the band further back from the field to garner more revenue from the “field suites.” Let’s not prioritize the video board/music over the Spirit of Troy. When the band marches into the Coliseum, let’s welcome our band and allow them to play instead of another advertisement. Play the advertisements before the band enters the Coliseum.
These circus activities do impact the fans and the players at the Coliseum. Would you want our players looking up at themselves at the video board and losing focus in a tight game or would you want them looking to our coaches and the field, focused? Stop pushing the sponsors to alumni and fans at the expense of our band.
I’m not saying that these are the reasons USC lost to Arizona State. However, football is a game of inches. It’s a difficult game that requires focus and intensity. The administration needs to do its part to help the team with this. It has created an atmosphere where players can lose intensity and in turn take the opposing team more lightly than they should. The administration is so focused on raising funds that it forgot a little bit of our USC tradition.
Attendance will grow when the team wins. Attendance will not grow based on these circus activities on game day. During Pete Carroll’s reign, fans didn’t fill the seats because of streaming music, the haircut skits or highlights made during the games. Rather, it was because the team won. So let’s go back to helping the team create a game day atmosphere of a champion instead of a Monty Python parody.
Maybe one less advertisement, one less sponsor and one less skit may lower the revenue figure on the front end. But creating a winning environment will more than make up for that “loss.” It’s been proven. Let’s not make this the modern dark ages of the ‘90s with added music, videos and sponsors.
If the administration wants to enhance game day experience for alumni and fans, put up Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the Coliseum and bring back the public address announcer, Dennis Packer.
USC Alumnus, Class of 1989